Why it is brilliant!
October War (OW) is one of those SPI games that has lurked in my memory for nearly 40 years. It appeared in a 1977 issue of Strategy and Tactics magazine. It currently resides in an SPI flat plastic box with three other significant S&T games from the same era (Cobra, Kharkov and Ney vs. Wellington). All of these games were played in my youth with friends, all of them were real classic player's games.
40 years seems a lifetime ago. In historical terms, OW was a description of current events. The Yom Kippur War had taken place only in 1973. Data was derived largely from open source reporting. In warfare terms we see Shermans and Centurions vs T55s and Saggers. The first war featuring massive use of anti-tank missiles. In game terms this is the descendent of Panzer Blitz via Panzer 44 and Mech War 77.
So why do I think this is game is so great?
- All units are platoons (see above) and linked very much to their real world prototypes. It feels like you are playing with real units. This is reinforced by the use of step reduction rather than an abstract disruption status caused by combat. When a unit has taken casualties you know it is down to one tank!
- It has multiple scenarios based on the Sinai and Golan Front battles. These are historical rather than abstract. There are also two multi-scenario campaign games, one for each front.
- The sequence of play is integrated: The turn starts with a direct fire phase, each side takes it in turn to fire one unit. Who goes first is a 50:50 die roll. This is followed by a similar movement phase for units that have not already fired. This includes opportunity fire. Each player makes choices all the time.
- Any unit attempting to move or fire has to roll for "panic". An SPI fetish with very random panic results. In this game it makes every decision fraught with uncertainty, despite issues with the concept (its a bit gamey!), it works.
- Overruns can be attempted. Who goes first in an overrun depends on a die roll 1-5 Israeli and 6 Arab. A massive incentive for the Israelis to use overruns and disincentive for the Arabs. Every now and again the Arabs get to shoot first, much to the surprise of the Israelis.
- Indirect fire is pre-plotted in advance.
- Combat effects include step losses and suppression
- There is no melee, all combat is fire combat.
The Golan 73 game has set me off down this road again. I can't see why this approach was not retrofitted to Panzer Blitz/Leader. Compared to OW, Arab Israeli Wars by AH was a developmental dead end. I wonder if we can use OW in a miniatures game? Hmmmmh!
There are more details about the game, including the rules, on BGG. One very nice thing is some great scenario cards......